iOS 12 Suica bugs exacerbate iPhone X Suica problems and create confusion

iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica bugs are causing headaches for some users getting exchanges for iPhone X Suica problem devices (a NFC hardware problem across all iOS versions): users find they have the same Suica problems running iOS 12 (iOS 12.0 specific software bugs) on NFC hardware problem free Revision B iPhone X devices. Unfortunately for iPhone X users the 2 issues merge in a perfect storm. It’s confusing and only natural to assume nothing is fixed and yet another Apple Support runaround iPhone X exchange is needed to fix it. If you are using iOS 11.4.1 on Apple Pay Suica iPhone X, I suggest staying with it and not updating to iOS 12 just yet.

Apple Pay Suica users who update to iOS 12 and watchOS 5 report the following problems:

  •  Unresponsive Express Transit cards at transit gates where Apple Pay requests a Face ID/Touch ID/Passcode unlock
  • Transit gate error flicker
  • The Suica card balance doesn’t update

Affected devices: iPhone 7/7 Plus (JP models only), iPhone 8/8 Plus, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 2 (JP Model only), Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 4.

iPhone XS is not affected by iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica issues thanks to A12 Bionic.

Fortunately iOS 12.1 has Suica bug fixes: Apple Engineering closed my original iOS 11.2.5 Suica error bug report filed in January 2018 saying the issue has been fixed in iOS 12.1. iOS 12.1 developer beta 4 went out earlier this week with 2 more likely to go before the official release. The just announced October 30 Apple Special Event would be a natural iOS 12.1 official drop date.

The iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1 updates will hopefully fix remaining Suica issues and provide relief for long-suffering iPhone X users who really need some peace of mind that only Apple can provide.


The iPhone X Suica problem upgrade dilemma

I wrote about the upgrade dilemma facing users with iPhone X Suica problem devices in my iPhone XS quick review but wanted to break the discussion out into a separate post. A12 Bionic bulletproofed Apple Pay Suica performance in iPhone XS and iPhone XR along the Express Cards with power reserve feature are remarkable and a good reason for Apple Pay Suica users to upgrade.


But it’s a dilemma for iPhone X users in Japan who have yet to obtain a Revision B iPhone X exchange for problem iPhone X devices: to upgrade or not to upgrade, to put up with the Apple Support hassle of getting an exchange for a Rev-B iPhone X or not. If you can get a good ‘as is’ iPhone X trade-in price from a carrier upgrade program, the iPhone XS/XR Apple Pay Suica performance is a huge step up from a problem iPhone X device. You won’t believe the difference.

If you plan to sell the device in Japan on an auction site like Yahoo Japan here are a few tips for getting a better price based on my experience:

  • Get an Rev-B iPhone X exchange as you can get a better price advertising a ‘just like new’ exchanged device. You can also advertise the ‘manufactured after April 2018 Rev-B iPhone X Suica problem free’ aspect as that has recognition value in Japan and nowhere else.
  • If the iPhone X is a Japanese carrier model A1902 make sure the carrier SIM lock has been removed which is easy to do. For Docomo iPhone X models also make sure the ‘Docomo Network Limitation‘ has been removed as well. You can check device status on the Docomo web site and request limitation removal. List the IMEI number in the product description so that potential buyers can check it for themselves.
  • If the iPhone X has AppleCare+, offer to transfer AppleCare after the sale.

If you don’t choose the upgrade option and have a problem iPhone X, be sure to exchange it for a Rev-B iPhone X as it is easier to do in Japan than anywhere else. You can certainly live with a Rev-B iPhone X NFC performance as it matches iPhone 8. Current iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica performance problems are fixed in the upcoming iOS 12.1 update.

Apple adds support for contactless student ID cards in Wallet


Apple hit the on switch for contactless student ID cards today. The press release has nice photos but is vague. There is much more detail on the Apple support doc Use student ID cards in Wallet on your iPhone or Apple Watch.

The most interesting detail is the device eligibility: iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and later, Apple Watch Series 1 and later and Express Mode isn’t available on iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. NFC-A/B, definitely not FeliCa powered as some sources were saying and not MIFARE powered either. It looks like Blackboard has something else up their sleeve for middleware but I’m willing to bet you that Student ID Express card performance is slower than Apple Pay Suica Express Card with power reserve even on the same iPhone XS/XR device. The Blackboard card format is FeliCa, the implementation appears to be PassKit NFC Certificate powered card emulation.

The rest of the support doc details confirm the cards are stored value (SV) with Express Mode and students can recharge them with Apple Pay, a credit/debit card in the eAccounts app or cash at the “school’s self-service machines”. In other words it’s just like Suica App and Apple Pay Suica for door locks instead of transit.

There is conflicting information about the Blackboard middleware technology used for Apple contactless student ID cards. The Express Card function is exactly what FeliCa offers and Blackboard supports. On the hardware side iPhone 6/6 Plus and later all have NFC A-B-F chips as do Blackboard NFC readers. There is a (very) remote possibility that Blackboard is utilizing its own FeliCa licensed middleware (and per device unique FeliCa Networks keys) on non-FeliCa devices and Apple built-in FeliCa on global FeliCa devices. I am trying to confirm details and will post developments here.

Update 2
The Blackboard card format is indeed FeliCa. The implementation appears to be Passkit NFC Certificate powered card emulation used across the board. It’s impossible to confirm if the ID cards are using standard FeliCa middleware on global FeliCa devices and something else on older devices but Apple’s agreement with FeliCa Networks includes a keys server for Apple devices. It’s possible that Apple is activating FeliCa keys on older devices just for Student ID cards.

Apple Pay Suica performance improvements coming with iOS 12.1 update

iPhone X Suica Error Problme

Good news for Apple Pay Suica users: word coming down Apple developer channels is that iOS 12.1 contains Apple Pay Suica fixes and performance improvements.

After updating to iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica users started complaining that Express Transit cards were sometimes unresponsive with Apple Pay demanding a Passcode/Face ID unlock at transit gates, or causing error flicker. It seems to be a performance issue across all Apple Pay Suica compatible devices: iPhone 7 (JP), iPhone 8, Revision B iPhone X, Apple Watch 2 (JP), Apple Watch 3 and the just released Apple Watch 4.

iPhone XS is free of the problem thanks to A12 Bionic bulletproofed Apple Pay Suica.

iPhone X Suica problem units will not see any improvement because it is a hardware issue for iPhone X units manufactured before April 2018. The only way to fix NFC problem iPhone X units is to get them exchanged. See the iPhone X Exchange Guide for details.


The final word on global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Pay Japan
The Apple Pay Japan pages also confirms global FeliCa for iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4

Apple is slowly updating Apple Pay eligible device information and Suica information and finally got around to updating the Apple Pay Japan page eligible device specs. It’s the final word that iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4 are really truly global FeliCa just like previous generation devices, but more important, from here on out, simply Apple Pay.

The last piece will fall into place when the Apple Watch platform adds Express Cards with power reserve that are specific to A12 Bionic iPhone XS and iPhone XR. Apple Pay will be feature complete on all devices, across the board.

A12 Bionic Powered NFC
A12 Bionic is powering some very interesting new NFC features on iPhone XS and iPhone XR